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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Resources: Don't write a story about religion in the US without using this tool!

The Pew Forum has released a valuable new study offering detailed informatin on the various religious traditions in the United states.

This should be a very useful tool. I only regret that a similar one probably isn't available in Canada. (Please! Write to me and prove me wrong!)

For example, you can find out what percentage of Catholics vs. Jews, vs. Mormons vs. Muslims are 18-29 years of age. (18, 20, 24, 29, in case you are interested).

Note: Demographic statistics must be interpreted with caution. This statistic provides a useful example. More Muslims than members of the other groups are probably immigrants. Immigrants tend to be younger, as a group, than the native population. People don't usually immigrate when they are old. Indeed, often they cannot do so, for health reasons. If that assumption is correct, we should expect that more Muslims will be in the age group that is likely to produce children. And that is what we do see: 48% Muslim vs. 41% Catholic in the group 30 to 49 but 18% Muslim to 24% Catholic in the age group 50 to 64.

Canadian demographer David Foot likes to say that demography explains two-thirds of everything. I believe that he overstates the case, but I also think that we can spare ourselves a lot of grief and misunderstanding by examining the demographics of a population before we jump to conclusions. And I hope this Pew Forum document will help us do that.

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